Tag Archives: Dartmouth

When Diversity Dictates Lower Quality Hires

Progressives at Tier 1 research universities and top liberal arts colleges sit at the summit of the higher ed hierarchy, where their eminence rests upon high standards of academic work.  But they are fervently committed to hiring and retaining more persons of color.  They have attempted affirmative action of the official and unofficial kind for a long time, but gains in the percentage of professors of color in elite departments have been disappointing.  If you listen to them, you can hear a rising dismay in their voices.  They want so much to have more non-white colleagues, but the years pass and nothing seems to change.

This is a case of bad faith.  People are in bad faith when they think and act in way that deny the reality of what they otherwise enjoy.  The behavior is to demand more non-white hiring and promotion and retention.  The reality is a combination of the meritocratic system of selective schools plus the limited pool of minority candidates.  The number of African American and Hispanic PhDs falls well below the proportions those groups constitution of the general population.  And in the humanities, Asian Americans, too, are underrepresented.

‘Inclusivity’ vs.  Prestige’

This means that superior institutions must compete vigorously for faculty of color who have the qualifications that put them into the ranks of high-achievers.  Inevitably, they must lower the bar for them, setting up a showdown between a top school’s prestige and its “inclusivity.”

It has happened recently at Dartmouth College.  A female Asian American English professor has been denied tenure even though the department’s tenure committee voted unanimously to promote her.  The headline of a story on the case at  reads “Campus unrest follows tenure denial of innovative, popular faculty member of color.”  Aimee Bahng, a UC San Diego PhD, has been an assistant professor at Dartmouth since 2009.  The titles of her various writings indicate the nature of her expertise:

“Extrapolating Transnational Arcs, Excavating Imperial Legacies: The Speculative Acts of Karen Tei Yamashita’s Through the Arc of the Rain Forest

“Queering The Matrix: Hacking the Digital Divide and Slashing into the Future”

She has also supported Black Lives Matter and was co-founder of the Ferguson Teaching Collective at Dartmouth.  In other words, all her interests fall nicely within Dartmouth’s reigning identity politics.

But the higher-ups rejected her.  Why?

Not Close to Dartmouth’s Standards

Bahng’s colleagues say that the Dartmouth administration isn’t sufficiently committed to raising ‘the number of underrepresented minorities on the faculty.  They don’t accuse the leaders of racism, but they do allege an unpleasant climate on campus and little appreciation of the special pressures and burdens faculty of color experience.  Reporter Colleen Flaherty interviews a SUNY-Buffalo professor of transnational studies who claims that people of her profile end up doing extra service work on diversity committees and programs, and they do extra work mentoring students of color who seek them out.  That cuts into their research time.  Additionally, she claims, research on race, gender, and sexuality “has less cultural capital” (tell that to Judith Butler, Cornel West….)

Nobody who turned Bahng down speaks in the story, but it isn’t hard to see why they did in fact speak out.  Flaherty includes a link to Bahng’s CV, and it displays a research record that doesn’t come close to meeting Dartmouth’s tenure standards.  All English departments at major institutions want to see a book in hand and several research articles.  But all Bahng has is a book “forthcoming” from Duke University Press in early 2017.  By itself, that counts for nothing.  We need, at the very least, a contract from the Press stating that the manuscript has passed through peer review, been approved by the board, and has a production schedule.  Bahng’s defenders don’t say anything about it, suggesting a contract doesn’t exist.

As for essays, since her hiring in 2009, Bahng has only two of them in print.

Making it all Go Away

The situation is clear. The department was willing to lower Dartmouth standards in order to meet identity needs (and, possibly, friendship).  Higher officials weren’t.   She has delivered 37 lectures, and she lists 19 fellowships and grants on the CV, but those awards and activities haven’t produced much in the way of the written word. However much Dartmouth wants more faculty diversity, the output was just too low.

I don’t think it will be too long, however, before the scruples of administrators in these kinds of situations soften.  the identity demand is growing too shrill, and in the humanities, research is increasingly meaningless.  Who cares whether someone has just published the 4,210th essay on literary transnationalism?  Soon, administrators will ask themselves whether it is worth it to insist upon strict standards of published research when they run against the diversity mandate, incense other professors, and bring on bad publicity.  A simple and quiet acquiescence can make it all go away.

BLM Protesters Surge into Dartmouth Library, Yelling at Whites

According to the conservative Dartmouth Review, a crowd of “Black Lives Matter” protesters surged into a campus library November 12, shouting obscenities at whites (“Fuck your white privilege!” “You filthy white piece of shit!”), pushing and shoving as well. The Dartmouth, a non-conservative paper, buried its report of the library incursion at the end of a long positive story about BLM that The Review said was so dishonest the reporter could qualify to work for the mainstream media right now.

A Dartmouth administrator HAS APOLOGIZED TO THE BLM PROTESTERS, which turns the whole story into one about the university’s integrity or lack thereof. During a Monday night community discussion at the school’s black affinity dormitory, Vice Provost for Student Affairs Inge-Lise Ameer apologized to protesters for the hostile coverage their protest received.

Phil Hanlon, new Dartmouth president, put out one of those generic statements endorsing civility, thus evading saying anything useful. A commenter to The Review said the people harassed in the library said that night were clearly guilty of ‘”studying while white.”

Tsion Abera, a junior and vice president of Dartmouth’s NAACP branch, denied that any protesters were violent, but said there was profanity and harassment, and that it was all part of the plan.

Read more at The Daily Caller

How ‘Money Men’ Hijacked a Famous College

dartmouth.jpgCrossing the snow-covered Dartmouth green one night, I stopped, looked around, and asked, “Who owns this place, and by what right?” More than half a century later, I have still not resolved a complete answer to that question. But I can give you my short-form response: A small group of willful people, mostly money men disdainful of undergraduate education, have stacked the board of trustees, made an unannounced decision to convert a liberal arts college into a major research university, and “earned” themselves huge commissions on sales of their own securities to the college’s endowment while keeping details of the transactions secret.

A note on the history: Most of America’s early colleges were founded
by church denominations, whose control gradually weakened as costs and
instructional quality rose. The pivotal stage in this history occurred
in the decades following the Civil War, when alumni, having assumed the
major burden of support, began asserting claims for seats on the board
of trustees. Dartmouth alumni battled longest and won the most
significant concessions in 1891. Responsibility for the college was to
be vested in each and every alumnus; excepting the ex officio members
(the state’s governor and the college president), half the trustees
would thereafter be elected directly by the alumni body, and the other
half by the entire board.

Continue reading How ‘Money Men’ Hijacked a Famous College

Dartmouth Costs $62,125 a Year

(reprinted from Joe Asch’s Dartblog)

While the College takes pride in extending generous financial aid to 57.4% of the student body, the other 42.6% pays full whack. That’s an amazing thing when you think about it. The average American family income is $49,445, yet a great many Dartmouth families can pull together $62,125 (according to the recent estimate below by the College) to send a son or daughter to Hanover for three terms.

Continue reading Dartmouth Costs $62,125 a Year

The Politics of Campus Hazing

SAE house.jpgThe war on fraternities is one of the longest-running conflicts on campus, and the most active front in that war is the current media campaign against hazing, triggered by the lurid charges of former Dartmouth student Andrew Lohse. In an op-ed in his college newspaper, The Dartmouth, and later in a long Rolling Stone article, “Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy,” Lohse described SAE pledges as swimming in a kiddie pool full of fecal matter, vomiting blood after chugging cups of vinegar, and dining on “vomlets” that combined eggs and upchuck–all supposedly part of the SAE hazing ritual.

The Rolling Stone article was a media sensation, but there are
problems with Lohse’s scatological/vomitological catalogue of horrors.
Lack of corroboration, for one. So far, no one else reports seeing the
indignities as he described them. However, 27 SAE members–Lohse
included–were brought up on charges by Dartmouth’s Undergraduate
Judicial Affairs Office.

Continue reading The Politics of Campus Hazing

Are Legacy Preferences Illegal?

Father and son.jpgRichard Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation is well known for his relentless, articulate, well-researched arguments that affirmative action should be based on class, not race. My reaction to these arguments is usually rather tepid. I find Kahlenberg’s arguments compelling only insofar as he also criticizes race-based preferences, and his criticism of them usually doesn’t go very far. His objection to distributing burdens and benefits based on race is typically understated, if stated at all, limited to criticizing race preferences because they help some who don’t need it (well off minorities) and don’t help many who do (poor whites and Asians). If he’s ever argued that helping some individuals and hurting others because of their race is wrong, that courts should strike down race-based preferences as violations of both the Constitution and civil rights laws, I don’t recall it.

Continue reading Are Legacy Preferences Illegal?

Dartmouth Foils Its Donors


It’s a constant skirmish between donors seeking to fund specific scholarly projects at universities and the universities’ administrators, who would typically like to see as much of that money as possible go to “unrestricted” uses–that is, whatever the administrators, not the donors, deem  the best use of the funds. And nowadays, with universities’ endowment values falling during the current recession, “best use of the money” can often mean covering deficits in the universities’ general operating budgets, deficits sometimes occasioned by wasteful spending on grandiose campus construction projects or–even worse in the eyes of some donors–ideological projects such as “diversity” and “sustainability” offices only marginally connected to the delivery of higher education.

Hence the recent and increasingly widespread phenomenon of the “levy”–a rake-off by administrators of a percentage of the income from endowed programs and endowed professor’s chairs, ostensibly to cover overhead and other “associated program costs,” as universities call them, but in fact a bit of naked budget-balancing. Such was the case in late May, when top administrators of Dartmouth College announced that it planned to increase, as of the fiscal year that began July 1, the percentage of its levy from 14.29 percent to 19.1 percent. Dartmouth administrators announced that the nearly 33 percent levy hike would raise $2 million that would have previously gone to endowment recipients but now would help close Dartmouth’s $100 million budget deficit.

Continue reading Dartmouth Foils Its Donors

Faculty Bewildered as Administrators Siphon Off Money

“Inside Higher Ed” reports that Dartmouth College, facing a $100 million budget gap, is taking more funds from endowed chairs and endowed programs to help pay for administrative costs, alarming faculty, some of whom think the move is unethical.

Here is a first reaction to this news: we still think faculty run our institutions, but I’m not sure that is correct any more. Administrations run them, and more and more we are seeing the bureaucracies siphoning off funds from academic enterprises, including faculties.  At almost every school, bureaucratic spending has grown much faster over the past decade than spending on faculty salaries and the like.  There are several reasons for that, I think, but the big point is that the balance of power has shifted.  One thing that struck me on the Dartmouth experience was how much support we had from many faculty members, even those who disliked our politics.  What they liked was that we were railing against the proliferation of bureaucracy and the diversion of resources from the classroom. In many ways the modern academy has become much like the Washington administrative state: the bureaucracy/adminisration has grown in size and power and the legislature/faculty has shrunk. Of course the people (the students) become more and more irrelevant!

Dartmouth Turns on a Dime

I once asked a pilot friend if he didn’t tire of the lumbering, leviathan commercial airliner he flew. He surprised me by saying that a 747 can handle like a Lamborghini if ever it needed to.
A bit of that seems to be underway in Hanover, New Hampshire, where the new president of Dartmouth College, my alma mater, is responding with alacrity to the slackening economy. Even given the market’s nosedive, Dartmouth possesses a substantial multi-billion dollar endowment and employs nearly 2,800 full-time equivalent staff and 450 faculty. That’s a rather large organization—one now operating at a loss of $34 million.
But Dartmouth has one big asset: a group of Carl Icahnesque independent trustees who were elected by worried alumni in 2004, 2005, and 2008. These outsiders were vigorously resisted by Dartmouth—whose power establishment didn’t want activist directors—but the outsiders’ platforms of staunch fiscal conservatism and a leap out of the thicket of professional educrats won the day. After all, who needs a “Sustainability Director” or a “Dean of Pluralism”?
Alumni responded by their levels of giving, and Dartmouth’s former president, historian James Wright, responded by resigning his post early. In that position, now, is Jim Kim, the Harvard doctor who has never been the head of a major organization but who has now been thrown into a parlous billet.

Continue reading Dartmouth Turns on a Dime

The Dartmouth Case

At the Volokh Conspiracy, Todd Zywicki outlines the latest in the Dartmouth alumni suit against Dartmouth College.

The current case, like the previous case, arises from the 1891 Agreement between the Dartmouth Trustees and the alumni of the College, acting through the Association of Alumni, that gave the alumni the right to elect half of the non-ex officio members of the Board of Trustees. At the time, the Board was comprised of 12 members, of which 2 served ex officio (the Governor of New Hampshire and the Dartmouth president). Upon striking the agreement, over the next two years, 5 of the appointed trustees resigned and were replaced with elected trustees. Over time, the size of the board expanded, and by the time I was elected a trustee in 2005 there were 8 elected Alumni Trustees, 8 appointed Charter Trustees, and the Governor and College president as ex officio members. As I have discussed in detail elsewhere, the 1891 Agreement was the culmination of decades of negotiations between the trustees and college administration on one hand and the alumni on the other.
In 2007 after a string of petition trustees were elected to the Board, a majority of trustees voted to impose a board-packing plan, which added 8 new appointed seats to the board, making 16 appointed and 8 elected trustees. I won’t rehash that here, except to point interested readers to my earlier discussions as well as the Court’s excellent opinion which held that the plaintiffs in that case stated valid claims both on contract and promissory estoppel theories. Importantly, the Court also held that the Association of Alumni had standing to sue and capacity to contract in that case, as well as to provide valid consideration, such as administering the Alumni Trustee elections. For purposes of analysis on the current summary judgment motion, I am going to take it as given that the underlying contract claim is valid.
In Spring 2008, however, the alumni leaders who brought the suit had to stand for reelection and were voted out of office. The winning slate of alumni loyal to the trustees and administration dismissed the suit. Their campaign position had been that the alumni should have “negotiated” more with the trustees before bringing suit. As the current plaintiffs note in their most recent brief, it thus came as quite a surprise when the suit was dismissed with prejudice, with the deliberate intent to try to foreclose a future lawsuit if negotiations broke down (it doesn’t actually work, as will be discussed below). After all I’ve seen over the past few years, I thought that I was beyond being shocked by the sort of behavior described in the plaintiffs’ brief, but I confess that this surprised even me. The College has not contested any of the claims in the briefs of the current plaintiffs with respect to the collusive behavior of the AoA leadership in settling the prior case. Read the first 10 pages of so of the plaintiffs’ brief if you want to get a flavor of what happened.

Read on for a fascinating outline of the legal questions involved.

Zywicki Out At Dartmouth

This morning Todd Zywicki briefly noted at the Volokh Conspiracy, that he had been denied a second term on the Dartmouth Board of Trustees. It’s difficult not to conclude that Dartmouth is pruning board dissenters. Zywicki’s personal statement about the decision on his website provides a history of the source of his removal:

..From 1891 to 1990, Dartmouth’s alumni held the right to reelect their Trustees based on their performance during their first term. A fair process. But in 1990 a small group of alumni insiders transferred that power from the alumni to the Board itself. The date is not a coincidence: the tenure of Dr. John Steel ’54, the first petition trustee elected to the Board, expired that year. The new regime—that the Board sits in judgment of itself—was adopted precisely so that any future petition Trustees could be removed after one term.
Since then, the prospect of removal at the end of their elected term is held over Trustees’ heads from their first day on the Board. Even those elected by the alumni specifically to provide an independent voice are aware that they must toe the party line or risk expulsion at the end of their first term.

Zywicki pointedly did not toe that party line during his term. He mentions “harsh language and judgments” that he offered during a speech two years ago at the John William Pope Center (and apologized for) yet there’s little doubt that his open and oppositional status was far greater a problem to the university, and to his chances for re-selection. He was elected as an insurgent petition candidate, arguing for a focus on undergraduate education at odds with the research and expansion plans of the administration and prior trustees (read more from 2007). He opposed the administration’s (eventually successful) plan to reduce, proportionally, the number of elected members (by means of doubling the number of appointed trustees).
He supported a lawsuit filed by the Dartmouth Association of Alumni that alleged that the college had abrogated its contractual arrangement with alumni by altering the composition of the Board of Trustees. When a slate of candidates was run against the Association leadership that pledged to end the lawsuit, he argued directly against them (here and here). Zywicki was an inconvenient trustee; it’s little wonder that the Board refused to reelect him, and why they would provide no explanation. The years 2004-2007 saw four successful petition candidates with ideas at odds with those of the college administration elected to the Dartmouth Board. Not content with packing that body with extra members, the college seems now intent on quashing any remainders of these years of dissent.

Wright At Northwestern, Opinion At Dartmouth, And Beer

– After being offered and then denied an honorary degree by Northwestern University, Jeremiah Wright returned to speak at that institution on Friday, in a speech closed to media. The Daily Northwestern was there, and, while Wright’s remarks don’t seem to be particularly interesting, the opinions of students present clearly were. One attendee, echoing opinion expressed from a number of quarters in the university community, identified a stark cause for Wright’s degree troubles: racism.

Loyola University of Chicago senior Micah Uetricht said NU’s initial decision to extend the honor to Wright was a small but important step in correcting racial injustice.
“The vilification was race-based in the first place,” said Uetricht, who is white. “The revoking was just an extension of that in the first place.”

Keep fighting. Any day now, Northwestern will recognize the Reverend’s pioneering research into the origins of AIDS in the black community.
The Dartmouth features an interesting range of student opinion on whether “professors should talk about their political beliefs in class?” Almost all of the responses suggest they should, with, of course, caveats about disapproving pressures to share those beliefs.
The most interesting, and disquieting thing about the responses was how many, in embracing the expression of political opinions, established only meaningless tests of relevance or none at all. One student justifies professorial political expression in noting that “Marxism helped drive research into atomic physics and radiation during the Cold War, and almost every important political advancement has at least a few classics of literature written about it.” Sure, and yet it’s bewilderingly unclear to me how a frank expression of Marxism is going to ever enhance a physics class, or explanations of staunch Whiggery enhance a class on Felix Holt or Middlemarch.
Another student argues that “political views are as controversial, as questionable and as significant as any other perspectives in social science or in the hard sciences.” Well, yes, probably, but, with rare exceptions (I’m looking at you, Women’s Studies departments) most professors are hired and paid for their well-founded perspectives in the social and hard sciences, and not for the presumed viability of all of their opinions on anything. If unrelated controversial views on, politics, or, say, lawn care, or network television are regarded as quantities basically equivalent to academic expertise, I’m not sure whether that leaves room for any meaningful concept of “scholar” at all.
Read the full responses.
– And the University of Wisconsin is offering a class on making beer reports the Chicago Tribune:

The course, in the university’s bacteriology department, will focus on fermentation rather than consumption.

Sure it will. Somehow, students are rushing to sign up.

How Dartmouth Thwarted Its Alumni

Given their common characteristics it’s often difficult for a person of even superior discernment to tell, from a slight distance, the difference between an accomplished university bureaucrat and a robust brick wall. Both seem witlessly to beg for the wrecking ball. The nation’s nine colonial colleges—not to mention the hundreds founded since—are thronged with administrative employees whose job it is to justify the outsized administration of the college or university that employs them. On the whole, these congeries of deans report that things are not going very well, that manifold “issues” of tremendous consequence beg resolution, and that, darn it, they just need more manpower. They recommend more deans.

And they are generously obliged on that score. The fact that, on the margin, American colleges now privilege the task of thickening the ranks of bureaucrats over that of educating their students is one reason that alumni—whose gifts are the lifeblood of the colonial institutions, at least—are in “revolt” mode, to use The Wall Street Journal’s word. At the front of the fight, facing across the wind-swept college green the marshaled deanery, are the students and alumni of Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Reacting to all manner of absurdities—such as the fact that from 2001 to 2006, Dartmouth added twice as many administrators as faculty members—Dartmouth alumni have voted in, four times in a row since 2004, activist trustees who pledged to hold the College’s executives to account. At most publicly traded companies the election by the shareholders of an activist board-member cues, if not a resignation, then at least an episode of doleful reckoning on the part of the chief executive. At Dartmouth, the election of four independent trustees resulted in ever more pitched protests from the cocksure deanery; like any bureaucracy, it had become so thoroughly insulated from external inquiry that the notion of it having erred was imponderable.
After the fourth independent trustee was elected in May of 2007, the rubber-stamp set decided to attenuate the fractious independents by “packing” Dartmouth’s board. Traditionally half alumni-elected and half self-appointed, the Board under a September 2007 plan would become two-thirds self-appointed and one-third elected – in consequence castrating the elected minority.

Continue reading How Dartmouth Thwarted Its Alumni

Students Ungrateful? Sue Them.

Priya Venkatesan will go down in history as the Dartmouth professor who decided to sue her students because they gave her lousy course evaluations. A few days later Venkatesan, who was hired by Dartmouth in 2005 to teach four sections of Writing 5, the semester-long standard freshman-composition class, told reporters she was withdrawing her planned lawsuit, largely because, as the New York Post reported, she couldn’t find a lawyer to take her case, in which she intended to charge students in her fall and winter classes this year (and also Dartmouth itself) with violations of federal civil rights laws banning discrimination on the basis of gender and ethnicity.

Vetnkatesan also sent e-mails to some of her students, accusing the 18- and 19-year-old Dartmouth freshmen of “harassment” and advising them that their responses would be “used against” them in “a court of law.”

Venkatesan was quickly dropped from the Dartmouth writing program’s teaching roster, and she has recently taken a teaching position at Northwestern, which evidently hired her before the news broke about her student-suing propensities. But the question is: why did Dartmouth (or Northwestern, for that matter) hire her to teach writing in the first place. From all evidence Venkatesan hasn’t a clue as to construct a clear English sentence. She does, however, have a Ph.D. in “literature,” which means that she plowed through and regurgitated the piles of French postmodernist theory expressed in incomprehensible jargon that are the standard course fare nowadays in literary studies. Here, for example is the Amazon description of Vanketsan’s undoubtedly dissertation-based book, Molecular Biology in Narrative Form (the 39-year-old Venkatesan also has a master’s degree in genetics):

Molecular Biology in Narrative Form is a groundbreaking, interdisciplinary study that shows a connection between molecular biology and French narrative theory, and, from a unique perspective, bridges the gap between two disciplines that seem mutually exclusive. With many new insights on the link between science (in the form of DNA, a set of codes) and literature (in the form of language, another set of codes), this book looks at modern experimental science within the framework of semiotics. Priya Venkatesan reveals the extraordinary parallel between the work of scientists and the work of narratologists who develop narrative paradigms and analyze literary texts.

And here is an excerpt from a 2006 article by Venkatesan:

Continue reading Students Ungrateful? Sue Them.

Some Dartmouth Alumni Happy With Less Influence

Another vital chance to opine on the Dartmouth trustee-packing scheme has arisen. The Dartmouth Association of Alumni is now holding elections for their Executive Committee. The contest revolves centrally around the Alumni Association’s ongoing suit against Dartmouth’s alteration of the college’s board. Two slates of candidates are competing: one, Dartmouth Undying, which vows to end to suit against Dartmouth, and another, Dartmouth Parity, that vows to continue it. You’re likely familiar with the issue; if not, a simple comparison of how each side presents the issue might be informative.

Here’s Dartmouth Parity on the question:

Since 1891 alumni have elected half the members of the Board of Trustees, and, in doing so, they have kept Dartmouth on an even keel – and ensured that the College has remained a college, rather than becoming a university. Now, after losses in four consecutive trustee elections and the constitution referendum, the Board of Trustees has announced a plan to marginalize alumni, doubling the number of unelected trustees. Under this radical plan, trustees elected by the alumni would be outnumbered on the Board by a margin of two to one.

Aside from a few potentially disputable adjectives (“radical”), it’s an objectively accurate depiction of what has happened – and why a lawsuit has been filed.

Here’s Dartmouth Undying’s encapsulation of their candidates’ sentiments about the suit:

They are of one mind about ending the divisive, expensive lawsuit that their opponents support. Not only is this lawsuit diverting money and resources from undergraduate education, it is creating instability and disunity, which will hamper Dartmouth’s ability to attract the best candidates in the upcoming search for its next President. It is also disturbing to students who deserve better from their alumni.

Continue reading Some Dartmouth Alumni Happy With Less Influence

The Internship Racket

(This article originally appeared at Inside Higher Ed)

Dartmouth College is now the latest institution to announce considerable changes to its tuition and financial aid structure, eliminating any charges for students from families making less than $75,000 a year. Dartmouth’s arrangement is not nearly so generous as Harvard’s or Yale’s, yet it’s markedly superior in one regard. Dartmouth proposes to offer a scholarship “to allow financial aid recipients to take advantage of research or internship opportunities in their junior year.”

Dartmouth’s is the most concrete step towards expanding access to internships, in a cycle of financial aid changes where colleges have begun to take explicit note of the fundamental inequities in their accessibility. Several colleges eliminated summer earning expectations for students on financial aid, asserting that the demand that students contribute money toward tuition in summers posed a stark obstacle to the pursuit of less-remunerative internships and volunteer work. All that is undoubtedly true, but the colleges’ efforts go nowhere near establishing equality of access to internships.

Why worry? Increasingly, internships are perceived as essential steps to post-college employment, as definitive legs up for job applicants. “Internships are no longer optional, they’re required,” The New York Times quoted Peter Vogt, author of Career Wisdom for College Students and an adviser to MonsterTrak.com, as saying last month. A 2006 study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers indicated that 62.5 percent of new college hires performed undergraduate internships. Employers responding to association’s 2007 Recruiting Benchmarks Survey reported that they offered full-time jobs to almost two-thirds of their interns. Over 30 percent of new hires came from such internal internship programs. Internships undoubtedly enhance employment prospects, but the question is – for whom? The answer, almost invariably, is for students already well-off.

Continue reading The Internship Racket

Not Evil, Just Woeful

Dartmouth trustee Todd Zywicki made several clumsy remarks in an otherwise good speech about campus orthodoxy. Speaking at a conference at the John William Pope Center, Zywicki compared faculty pressure to oust Harvard president Lawrence Summers to the Spanish Inquisition, called former Dartmouth president James Freedman a “truly evil man,” and said those who control the universities don’t care about God or country.

The howls of protest that greeted the speech focused mostly on the over-the-top remark about the late president Freedman, who was indeed not evil, merely another time-serving college president who worshipped non-stop at the altar of political correctness. Freedman first came to my attention when a couple of his administrators urged Dartmouth students to steal or destroy copies of the Dartmouth Review because that famously conservative newspaper was “just litter.”

At the time that kind of contempt for free speech was new to me. I hadn’t been aware that tolerating or urging the destruction of newspapers that dissented from campus orthodoxy was becoming the default position of many administrators from coast to coast. Later the president of Cornell drew almost no criticism when he delivered a commencement speech that included praise for students who had seized and burned copies of the Cornell conservative paper. This raised the possibility that Cornell had somehow morphed into the University of Heidelberg at Ithaca, circa 1936.

Freedman, who was Jewish, was extremely sensitive to anti-Semitism, both real and imagined. I once asked the late Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, a friend who was teaching at Dartmouth at the time, why Freedman was so hell-bent to eliminate the college’s fraternities. “Because these are the people who wouldn’t let him in when he was an undergraduate,” Hertzberg replied. It’s true that Dartmouth had an appalling record of anti-Semitism in the old days, but the modern frats didn’t, and why they should be punished for what happened decades before to Freedman and other Jews was unclear.

Freedman notoriously botched his response to the Mein Kampf affair. A disgruntled insider at the Dartmouth Review had inserted a quote from Hitler’s book into a long quotation from Teddy Roosevelt that always appeared in the Review masthead. When the editor-in-chief discovered the quote, he cancelled campus distribution, stopped the mailing to subscribers, apologized and had a clean issue printed and distributed. “What more he could have done, I can’t imagine,” Dartmouth professor Jeffrey Hart wrote.

But without asking the Review for an explanation or calling for an investigation, Freedman repeatedly attacked the Review for anti-Semitism. When the Wall Street Journal asked him how he would feel if it turned out that a saboteur had inserted the Hitler words, (this is in fact what had happened), he replied, “I just haven’t thought about that.” At an administration-sponsored Rally Against Hate, he announced that “For ten years the Dartmouth Review has attacked blacks because they are blacks, women because they are women, homosexuals because they are homosexuals and Jews because they are Jews.” Not true, but the temptation to depict resistance to the spread of PC culture at Dartmouth as bigotry was just too strong. So was the hair-trigger response to the supposed presence of anti-Semitism.

In his speech, Zywicki argued that Freedman stood for “political correctness in all forms -speech codes, censorship, the whole multicultural apparatus.” Yes, he did. And it’s useful for a Dartmouth trustee to say so plainly.

Darmouth To Alumni: Be Happy We Left You Anything

Anyone looking for a prime example of official huckster-speak should take another look at Dartmouth’s press release concerning the board restructuring. It makes the college’s reduction of alumni voting rights sound like, well, a warm bath.

First there’s a lot of mush about Darmouth’s unusually small board, which Dartmouth’s governance committee found was putting “the College at a competitive disadvantage versus its peers.” Well, perhaps. Then it explains the remedy:

By adding eight charter trustees nominated by the Board, Dartmouth will still have a smaller Board than many of its peers, but the Board will have more flexibility to add trustees who offer the specific talents and experiences that the College needs, which elections don’t ensure.[italics mine]

You can read “talents and experience that the College needs” as meaning “not those of Peter Robinson, T.J. Rodgers, Todd Zywicki, or Stephen Smith.” In that sense, yes, elections would ensure very little for an administration at odds with its alumni. Yet Dartmouth goes on to assure that it’s not eliminating democratic processes; it’s merely reducing them – strategically and tastefully, of course. It all sounds rather gentlemanly – although elections “ensure” nothing, they’ll keep holding some anyway. Let’s read on:

Retaining Alumni Trustee Elections and Reaffirming the Important Role of Alumni Nomination of Trustees in the Governance Process

The Board determined that it would retain the significant number of alumni-nominated trustees on the Board as well as the contested ballot election process that the College has used to select them. Dartmouth has the highest proportion of alumni-nominated trustees of any peer institution, and is one of the few schools that selects alumni trustees via contested ballot elections. The Board believes that having alumni-nominated trustees and elections gives Dartmouth’s alumni an important direct voice in the College’s governance and fosters greater alumni involvement in the College. Under the changes adopted by the Board, Dartmouth will continue to have one of the most democratic trustee election processes of any college in the country. [italics mine]

True, and if I was to replace a third of Congress with my own appointees, we could still call American governance pretty democratic – compared to the Arab League.

Happily, the New York Sun today reports that alumni are less than pleased with the colleges’ blandishments.

One alumni quoted in the story noted “It’s like abolishing the House of Commons and making it all the House of Lords.”

Leaders of the Dartmouth Alumni Association are mulling a suit. All luck to them.

The Dartmouth Headlines

What do news outlets have to say about the Dartmouth Trustee fracas?

Dartmouth News “Dartmouth Trustees Vote to Strengthen College’s Governance”
New York Times “Dartmouth Expands Board, Reducing Role of Alumni”
New York Sun “Dartmouth Guts Power of Competitively Elected Trustees”

Let me just suggest that one of these is less accurate than the others; I wouldn’t want to unfairly influence anyone’s judgment by saying more.

Dartmouth Alumni Resurgent

HANOVER, NEW HAMPSHIRE – At most elite colleges and universities in America, the barometer of alumni engagement is simple: How many of them sign checks each year? At Dartmouth College, the smallest of the Ivy League schools and the only one with a democratized Board of Trustees, the measure is voter turnout.
Stephen F. Smith, Class of 1988, just completed his run for a seat on Dartmouth’s Board. He’s the fourth in a line of “petition candidates” – alumni who earned their spot on the ballot after sending a letter to alumni asking for signatures. Five hundred signatures are necessary, but petition candidates usually receive substantially more. In fact, the number of petition-signing alumni increases each year. Like the three earlier petitioners, Stephen Smith ran against a slate of formally nominated candidates who are supporters of Dartmouth’s administration and are reticent to upset the status quo. But Smith has some tough questions to ask. And like the three earlier petitioners, he has emerged from an improbably caustic campaign with a decisive 55% victory. Continue reading Dartmouth Alumni Resurgent

Dartmouth Victory!

Press Release: Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs

Dartmouth Board of Trustees Elects Stephen Smith

HANOVER, N.H. – The Dartmouth College Board of Trustees has elected Stephen F. Smith as a trustee following a nomination vote by Dartmouth’s alumni from a slate of four candidates.

Smith, a 1988 graduate of Dartmouth, will join the board on June 11, following commencement ceremonies in Hanover. He succeeds Nancy Kepes Jeton ’76, who will step down in June after ten years of service on the board.

The Dartmouth Board of Trustees has ultimate responsibility for the financial, administrative and academic affairs of the College including long-range strategic planning, approving operating and capital budgets, managing the endowment, overseeing the educational program, leading fundraising efforts, setting tuition and fees, and approving major policy changes. The Board currently consists of 18 members, including eight alumni trustees nominated by alumni vote and elected by the board, eight charter trustees selected by the board, the Governor of New Hampshire (in an ex officio capacity) and the President of the College. In November 2003, the Board voted to expand the number of seats to 22 over several years.
A total of 18,186 voters, 28 percent of alumni, cast 32,941 votes using the “approval” method whereby voters can vote for as many of the candidates as they wish. Smith received 9,984 votes.

Read more here